Theatre Review: ‘Man of La Mancha’ at The Westchester Broadway Theatre

Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 By: Lori Speiser Source: NY THEATRE GUIDE

Man of La Mancha playing at the Westchester Broadway Theatre is a play inspired by the book The Adventures of Don Quixote written by Miguel de Cervantes in 1615. In 1959, Dale Wasserman wrote a non-musical play for CBS’ DuPont Show of the Month.  Wasserman wrote it as a play within a play; Cervantes is in prison and while there he tells the story of Don Quixote. By 1965 Don Quixote’s part was turned into a musical.    

. . .this rendition is a rousing success.. 

Don Quixote is a man, who after reading too many books about knights and chivalry, has a break with reality and leaves home to right the world’s wrongs.  He sees the world with hope and idealism and rejects the reality surrounding him.  While the play has moments of humor, there are serious themes also; Quixote’s inability to see the truth around him sometimes causes harm.

The play was written to be played on a bare set.  The set provided here by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case was simple but extremely effective.  The back is a massive black stone wall representing the prison.  After the overture ends, an impressively long staircase dramatically descends from the top of the wall. While the stage is dark there is a bright light at the top and the people descending are backlit (lighting by Andrew Gmoser). The audience needs to look up, and therefore feel they are also in the dungeon.  The beautifully played notes of the overture and the descent of the stairs set the mood of the play immediately.   

While many of the costumes (designed and built by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case with assistance by Matthew Hemesath) were appropriately simple for the prisoners and town folk, other costumes were delightful:  Don Quixote’s armor, Sancho’s pantaloons, Antonia’s beautiful dress and hat and, of course, the mules.

Musical director Patrick Hoagland did a terrific job. Whether using only one instrument for soft subtle moments or when full out as for the boisterous fight scene, the music enhanced the presentation.

The entire cast of this play is fabulous. Paul Schoeffler was excellent in all three roles:  Cervantes, Quijana and Quixote.   But as Don Quixote he was masterful.  His rich voice was full of conviction as he sang “Man of La Mancha” (I, Don Quixote) and “The Impossible Dream”, and heart-felt for “Dulcinea”.   Michelle Dawson played Aldonza with a passionate combination of anger and resignation, singing with the same passion in her beautiful voice.

Gary Marachek as Sancho Panza was adorable. He played him with excellent characterization.  Sarah Hanlon portrayed Antonia sweetly using her beautiful soprano voice while singing with Joanne Borts, the housekeeper, who sang her part with a wry twist.  Alan M-L Wager’s Padre always had a twinkle in his eye and David Cantor as the barber was particularly amusing, as were the mules.

Directed and choreographed by David Wasson, who has an impressive history with the play, this rendition is a rousing success.  During one of his speeches Don Quixote says, “Do not pursue pleasure, for you may have the misfortune to overtake it.”  Concerning this play I would disagree. Pursue it, and enjoy the pleasure.

Running Time: Approximately two-and-a-half hours including one 30 minute intermission.

Man of La Mancha is playing at The Westchester Broadway Theatre until May 1st, 2016.  The theatre is located at One Broadway Plaza, Elmsford NY.  For tickets call the box office at (914) 592-2222. .